Athletes Inspire Athletes

 By LTC Danny Dudek, WTC G-3 Operations

LTC Daniel Dudek, WTC G-3 Operations, applied to be on the 2012 Warrior Games Army swimming team. Dudek is one of more than 25 other wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers and Veterans who participated in the swimming clinic to earn a spot on the Army's 2012 Warrior Games swimming team. Photo credit: SSG Emily Anderson

I’m finally here.  After many months of preparation and hard work, I’m finally seeing how big Warrior Games really is.  It didn’t hit until I was on the track today with members of the Army team going through their workouts.   Air Force team athletes were on the other side of the track with the same determination and seriousness of our team.  I feel differently than when I was younger.  Then I wanted to crush everyone not wearing my uniform, now I want everyone to do well and excel and enjoy second place right behind me.  I’m glad to see so many service members overcoming the adversities that brought them here. 

The track at the Air Force Academy is incredible.  Those that know me probably wonder what I’m comparing it to since I’ve always avoided track work, but in Colorado Springs you get that sense that you can’t get much closer to nature.  The air is dry and sun is just warm enough to let you can still enjoy the cool breeze.  It was clear today and easy to get lost into the zone of pushing that racing wheelchair around the track and forgetting about all the people around me.  Of course the air took its toll on my ability to push my lungs as hard as I did at the Fort Belvoir track in Virginia, but that’s why we’re here a little early –  training to get ourselves in the best position to win. 

The pool is also an impressive venue, with plenty of deck space and stands to accommodate as many as you can expect to want to watch swimming.  I was surprised to feel the thin air affect me in the water as well. 
As I look around at all of the Army athletes, I feel lucky to be among such incredible people.  If you’re reading this, you probably already know one… but there are forty nine other athletes just as talented and just as driven to excel.  I plan to do everything I can these next few weeks to show I can earn a place among them.  Go Army!

Army and USA Volleyball Coaches Welcome Warrior Games Sitting Volleyball Hopefuls to UCO Clinic

Warrior Games Army athletes gathered for the WTC sitting volleyball clinic at the University of Central Oklahoma. Participants trained with USA Volleyball, U.S. Paralympic, and Army coaches to fine tune skills as they competed for final slots on the Army team.

By Erich Langer, WTC Stratcom
The Army’s 2012 Warrior Games sitting volleyball team has been determined. Twelve athletes made it through the selection process and competed over the last four months under the tutelage of Army, USA Volleyball, and U.S. Paralympic coaches.

Athletes trained together at the University of Central Oklahoma’s (UCO) Wellness Center in Edmond, Oklahoma and at a clinic hosted by Penn State University.

“We had a difficult time narrowing the field, but we believe we have the right talent and chemistry to move forward in fielding an Army team that will take gold at the 2012 Warrior Games,” said CPT David Vendt, Army sitting volleyball coach. “I can tell you one thing; our athletes will work their butts off. We will not get out hustled.”

The final team will represent the Army at the U.S. Olympic National Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, April 30 – May 5.
These finalists trained at UCO, a U.S. Paralympic training site, under the direction of Vendt and U.S. sitting volleyball athlete recruitment coordinator, Elliot Blake.  Blake worked with all of these athletes at previous clinics that also include some Soldiers from the Army team that took silver at the 2011 Warrior Games.

“Movement, movement, movement,” Blake found himself repeating throughout the first day’s practice. “You just can’t underestimate the importance of moving, anticipating the next shot, and where you need to be on the court. If you’re sitting still and watching, you’re going to get beat. It’s easy to be lazy in the gym but the effort to win is the responsibility of every player.”

Blake’s consistent message resonated with the Army athletes. It didn’t take long for each to realize that to play as a team they had to work together.

“We’re not playing a pickup game. You’re practicing and preparing to compete at Warrior Games. Pass the ball. Always be thinking of passing and setting up a teammate for the next shot,” continued Blake, who calmly provided instruction in between drills, scrimmage sessions, and even at water breaks, never missing an opportunity to impress the fundamentals on the players.

“Ok, I want everyone to start calling the ball, when you say ‘mine’ it lets your teammates know you’ve got it, then they can move into position for the next shot. Always think about positioning and being prepared for the follow up  shot,” Blake added.

Blake turned much of the UCO clinic sessions over to Vendt.

“We’re training each morning, taking a mid-day break, and then getting back after it,” said Vendt, an enthusiastic coach who volunteered for this gig after playing the game and setting up the Community-Based Warrior Transition Command (CBWTU) Virginia’s sitting volleyball program.

Vendt serves as the CBWTU-VA nurse case manager. In that capacity he assists Soldiers with employment, education, and transition opportunities.

“I really appreciate Master Sergeant Jongema and Lieutenant Colonel Williams from the Warrior Transition Command (WTC) Adaptive Reconditioning Branch for selecting me to lead this year’s Warrior Games sitting volleyball team,” said Vendt. “We’ve got a great bunch of Soldiers here, and I am committed to do my best to prepare them for the games.

“Working with Coach Blake, UCO, and the U.S. Paralympic folks has been so helpful, each is so knowledgeable,” Vendt added. “They really have embraced athletes and are committed to helping us prepare to be the best.”

Athletes Compete for a Spot on Army’s Warrior Games Cycling Team

SGT Julio Larrea rode a few laps around the parking lot of McGill Training Center, Fort Meade, Maryland, to prepare for a timed trial during the Warrior Transition Command’s final selection clinic.

By SSG Emily Anderson, WTC Stratcom
The Warrior Transition Command final Warrior Games selection clinic held at Fort Meade, Maryland last week gave about 50 Soldiers and Veterans a chance to compete in four different sports for a spot on the Army team, but for several athletes this was their first chance to compete in the cycling event.

Athletes using an upright cycle are required to complete a distance of 30and athletes riding a recumbent cycle must complete a distance of 20 kilometers. Hand-crank cycles and all female cyclists, regardless of which cycle used, must complete 10 kilometers.

“I was going to do this last year, but unfortunately I wasn’t able to,” said SGT Julio Larrea, an AW2 Soldier assigned to the Warrior Transition Unit (WTU) at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Bethesda, Maryland.

Larreawas serving as an infantryman when he was injured when his left foot was crushed in a vehicle rollover during his deployment to Afghanistan in August 2010. His left leg was eventually amputated because of too much soft tissue damage and small reoccurring infections.

“It’s funny because before I deployed I told everyone I wanted to be home for my birthday. I didn’t want to spend another birthday deployed,” Julio said. “I was actually flown to Walter Reed on September 7, my birthday. I guess I got my wish.”

If selected, Larrea plans to take his postive attitude and determination to Warrior Games.

“No matter what I get tasked to do, I’ll do the best I can. Everything you do and everything you go through is you getting the job done,” Larrea said. “I don’t let things get me down too much. That’s just my personality.”

For some, going to Warrior Games is a chance at redemption from previous year’s competitions and Army athletes are determined to do their best.

“Last year the Marines had a stategy,” said SSG Kenny Griffith, who competed for the title of Ultimate Champion the first two years of Warrior Games and plans to compete again this year for the title.

Ultimate Champion is a Pentathlon-style format designed to pit Soldiers  against each other in a variety of disciplines. Points are earned in each discipline, and the athlete collecting the most points is crowned Ultimate Champion.

“I got blocked out by them in cycling last year because they had two cyclists take off at the start then the majority of them were at a decent speed, but I couldn’t get ahead of the pack because they had two cyclists at the back kind of blocking anyone from getting ahead,” said Griffith, a Soldier assigned to the Fort Hood WTU.

“This will probably be my last year competing in Warrior Games,” said Griffith. “Originally it was going to be last year, but I wanted to come back because I’m able to help with tactics and show people how to stay with the group.”

Throughout the clinic the cyclists gave it their all and motivated others who had never competed before to try cycling.

“Everyone worked pretty good together. They were close-knit, encouraging, and motivating.” SSG Mario Bilbrew, the Army’s Warrior Games cycling coach, said. “I’m confident we are going to do good at Warrior Games.”

Army Warrior Games Archery Clinic Receives Overwhelming Support from the Sumter Community, Third Army/ARCENT

By LTC Jeanette Griffin, WTC Stratcom

More than 30 Senior Non-Commissioned Officers (SNCO) assigned to Third Army decided to conduct their weekly staff meeting at the Sumter County State Fairgrounds, Sumter, South Carolina. After the meeting, several of the SNCOs and American Legion members posed for a photo and mingled with the more than 12 wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers during the Warrior Transition Command hosted Army archery clinic on March 12-16. Photo Credit: LTC JeanetteGriffin.

After more than five months of planning, organizing, and collaborating with the Sumter community and Third Army/ARCENT, 12 wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers and Veterans traveled across the country to train and compete for places on the  Army Warrior Games team on March 12 -16 in Sumter, South Carolina.

The first archery selection clinic was conducted January 31- 5 February in Sumter, only the top eight archers from both recurve and compound bow competitions will earn a spot on the team.

“During the first clinic, 18 shooters came to Sumter with hopes of wearing the Army colors in this year’s Warrior Games,” said retired SFC Steven Coleman, the Warrior Games Army archery coach. “Of these 18, eight Soldiers were selected to return to the second clinic, and four more athletes were added to represent the Warrior Games Army archery team.”

These Soldiers are competing in hopes of being one of 50 athletes representing the Army during the 2012 Warrior Games starting next month in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

“I feel that this clinic really helped me increase my ability to shoot as well as my mental ability to perform at a higher level,” said AW2 Veteran Jessie White. “The local community of Sumter has given amazing support while we were here.”

More than 12 wounded, ill and injured Soldiers and Veterans participated in The Warrior Transition Command's Army archery clinic on March 12-16. Third Army/ARCENT Medics and Combat Lifesavers assisted throughout the week. Photo Credit: (SSG Tracy J. Smith)

The list of supporters include American Legion Post 15, American  Whitetail, Coca-Cola, Crossroads Archery,  Dartfish, Elk’s Lodge, Gamecock Body Shop, Hansen International, emWave, and Third Army/ARCENT.

The offer of support to this effort began with the American Legion Post 15’s agreement to allow the Army archery participants to use the Agriculture Building located in the Sumter County Fairgrounds, in Sumter, South Carolina  for the first clinic held on January 31 to February 5, and the final qualification clinic that was conducted on March 12 -16.

U.S. Army Wounded Warrior Soldier (AW2) Curtis Winston prepares to shoot his recurve bow during training at the Warrior Transition Command (WTC) archery clinic in Sumter, South Carolina on March 12-16. The clinic, taught by U.S. Army Archery Coach and retired Sgt.1st Class Steven Coleman, prepared wounded, ill and injured Soldiers and veterans for this year’s Warrior Games, in Colorado Springs, Colorado on April 30-May 5. Photo Credit: SSG Tracy Smith

“The American Legion served breakfast every morning, a few Legion members treated the team to a lunch, and the Ladies Auxiliary of the Legion cooked and served dinner,” said Coleman.

Since Third Army/ARCENT recently moved from Fort McPherson, Georgia  to Shaw Air Force Base in Sumter, South Carolina,  Coleman’s dad, retired SGM Billy Coleman decided that they should visit Third Army/ARCENT to inform the organization that the Army archery clinic was scheduled to be held just a few miles from the base.

This meeting resulted in Stephenie Tatum, the Third Army/ARCENT media and community relations specialist, and SGM Fletcher the Third Army/ARCENT Public Affairs sergeant major and their team providing media support, committed military support, medics, and combat lifesavers during the clinic.

On Thursday, March 15, more than 30 Sergeants Majors and Directorate Chiefs assigned to Third Army/ARCENT conducted their weekly staff meeting at the Sumter State Fairgrounds.   After the meeting, several of the leaders posed for photos and mingled with the Soldiers and Veterans participating in the clinic extending words of encouragement and support.

“Overall, I felt that this was an excellent clinic,” said SGT Monica Southhall from CBWTU-Virginia. “I look forward to more clinics like this in the future.”

The archery clinic was an opportunity to get the community informed, involved, and excited about the Army’s archery team competing during the 2012 Warrior Games.  All the support provided by the Sumter community and Third Army/ARCENT was greatly appreciated and without a doubt, this was an outstanding clinic for everyone.

“Thanks to the outstanding support of the Sumter County community and several organizations, we have had two very successful clinics in Sumter County,” said Coleman.  “These organizations made it their mission to provide care and support for all of the Soldiers participating in the WTC archery clinics.”

Army athletes compete for spot on Warrior Games shooting team

By SSG Emily Anderson, WTC Stratcom

SPC Justin Miller receives one-on-one training from MSG Howard Day, the Army’s Warrior Games shooting coach during the first Warrior Transition Command (WTC) shooting clinic held March 14-17 in El Paso, Texas. Photo Credit: SSG Emily Anderson

Holding a rifle was nothing new for these athletes concentrating on the targets in front, but the silence in the room spoke volumes. Today was not another weapon’s qualification day, and these were not just any Soldiers.

About 25 wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers and Army Veterans from across the United States trained and competed for places on the Army Warrior Games shooting team during the WTC’s final shooting clinic at Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas, March  13 – 17.

“These athletes show a lot of promise,” said MSG Howard Day, the Army’s Warrior Games shooting coach. “We’ve seen dramatic improvements in their skill set from the clinic last month to now.”

Athletes from the Army, Navy/Coast Guard, Air Force, Marines, and Special Operations will compete for the gold in archery, cycling, wheelchair basketball, shooting, swimming, track and field, and sitting volleyball.

“Training for these games has helped me to stay motivated and positive in my rehab so that I can return to duty,” said SSG Vestor Hasson, currently assigned to the WTU at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington.  “I’ve got a fair chance, and I’m going to do my best.”

The games are  April 30 – May 5, in Colorado Springs, Colorado.  The official Army team will be announced in the March-April timeframe by representatives from WTC.

“This clinic has helped prepare myself for Warrior Games,” said AW2 Veteran Charles “Chuck” Allen. “It’s a mind game to stay focus and aim at the same spot every time because it doesn’t always hit the same spot.”

“I officially became a part of AW2 this year,” said Allen, who was medically retired after being shot during a training accident when another Soldier tried to clear his jammed weapon but misfired. The bullet entered the right side of Allen’s chest and stuck in his vertebrate, unable to be removed by doctors.

“If selected, I look forward to representing the Army,” Allen added. “Hopefully, I’ll be competing in the discus throw, shot put, wheelchair basketball, and rifle.”

The 2012 Warrior Games are hosted by the U.S. Olympic Committee and supported by the U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, USO, Fisher House Foundation, and the Bob Woodruff Foundation.

“Even if these athletes don’t make the U.S Army Warrior Games team, I expect everyone to take what they’ve learned back to their units,” Day added. “They are now the subject matter experts in the shooting field.”

Wounded Warrior’s Archery Hopes Fulfilled by a Community Worlds Away

SSG Jorge Haddock-Santiago, (L) and Scott Dault, owner of Crossroads Archery, work to adjust a compound bow set-up donated to Haddock-Santiago through donations from the archery community and private organizations. (Photos by U.S. Army SSG Tracy J. Smith)

By SSG Tracy J. Smith, Fort Stewart, Georgia WTB
It was 2004 when SSG Jorge G. Haddock-Santiago made his first trek halfway around the world, marking the first of numerous deployments.  With each combat tour, he suffered some form of injury that, in 2009, would leave the seasoned combat artilleryman unfit for continuation of active service.

Haddock-Santiago resigned to dedicate himself to the new mission of a transitioning Soldier—s to heal and transition back to active service or continue to serve the nation as a Veteran in my community.’

“I racked up a total of six deployments,” Haddock-Santiago said with a thoughtful look in his eyes. “The worst thing that ever happened to me wasn’t so much the physical injuries—it was losing my friends.”

The scars of loss are the hardest to bear for any Soldier especially carrying the guilt of ‘why not me?’

“I had so many things to work through,” he recalled, with a slight ever-present tremor in his hands.  “I have come a long way working through my post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, and other anxieties associated with loss.”

Haddock-Santiago, a native of Puerto Rico, dreamed of a military career that would find him mentoring others.  As a young boy, his father introduced him to archery as a form of relaxation, patience, and focus. Upon his assignment to Bamberg, Germany’s Warrior Transition Battalion (WTB) he was reintroduced to archery as a part of the WTB adaptive sports program, never imagining the healing properties the sport would have.

When he was selected to try out for the Army’s 2012 Warrior Games archery team, Haddock-Santiago developed a renewed sense of purpose.  Again travelling halfway around the world to Sumter, South Carolina, he was ready to compete to be a part of the third annual Olympic-style games for U.S. military service men and women who have become wounded, ill, or injured.

“I am ready to give my best in memory of my guys because their loss is a burden I carry throughout my life,” he said.  “They were my mentors, and because of them I am alive.”

Retired SFC Steven Coleman, the U.S. Army Warrior Games archery coach, felt Haddock-Santiago’s chances for a spot on the team was strong. Unfortunately, opportunity can knock you down as quickly as you are lifted up.

“When military archers are sent this far it’s important that they come prepared,” Coleman explained about his clinic and the imperativeness of being on your ‘A-game.’  “His bow broke and the harsh reality is something like this can immediately end your chances to continue in a competition unless you are able to get that equipment repaired or replaced.”

To Haddock-Santiago it meant he had failed those he wished to honor, and he described how personal that failure was in one word-demoralized.

Soldiers are trained to be acutely responsive in tough situations, assessing then managing.

When it was suggested that a small archery shop in Summerton, South Carolina, , a 30-minute drive from the clinic grounds, may be able to fit him and his battle-buddy, SSG Albert ‘Al’ Louangketh, also a Bamberg WTB Soldier with a bow, they set off on a new mission not realizing another set of life-changing events were about to unfold.

Scott Dault, owner of the Crossroads Archery, was at his post with the same disarming smile that he has greeted customers with for more than 30 years.

“I could tell the young man was upset when he got me on the phone,” Dault recalled. “We just didn’t realize how much it meant to him to be here and how far he had travelled until I talked to him and his buddy Al filled me in a bit when they got here.”

Haddock-Santiago confirmed to his leadership in Germany that he found a bow but it may be a bit out of his budget.  His First Sergeant reassured him that Haddock-Santiago should not worry about it adding, “My First Sergeant went one step further and volunteered to pay for it out of his own pocket.”

What the 17-year career Veteran did not realize was his benefits were manifesting before he had even arrived at the little shop in Summerton. Dault, along with his wife Kim, began contacting local archery clubs in the area before the two combat Veterans arrived.

“I got in touch with the president of Bowhunters of South Carolina] David Shull, and the president of Swamp Fox Archers, and they started a ripple effect reaching out to the local South Carolina archery organizations,” Dault said.  “Within minutes we had the okay and were able to get Jorge fixed up.”

A customer who frequented Crossroads Archery, Bob Vaden, was so moved by the Soldier’s indomitable spirit and Dault’s determination and this fledgling brotherhood of archers that he reached in his pocket to make a personal donation.

“We look at our lives and know we owe a lot to good folks like Jorge and Al,” Dault said of Vaden’s gift.

Haddock-Santiago was the recipient an $1,100 archery setup courtesy of the Daults and his brotherhood of archers but the group’s altruism did not stop there as the man who traveled half-way around the world has sparked a new opportunity for an unlikely partnership.

“This is about rebuilding their lives,” Coleman added.  “These Soldiers and Veterans have given so much as our true one-percenters and this is one of the most therapeutic gifts any of them can be given to rebuild focus, patience and self-confidence.”

SSG Jorge Haddock-Santiago, (R), a combat Veteran and U.S. Army 2012 Warrior Games archery coach, retired SFC Steven Coleman, work to repair Haddock-Santiago's compound bow during the initial archery preparation and selection clinic. (Photos by U.S. Army SSG Tracy J. Smith)

The curative benefits also match WTC’s mission of providing viable adaptive sports opportunity for the severely injured. Archery’s versatility allows those with severe disabilities to enjoy the benefits using special tactile equipment such as mouth-tabs for those with upper body strength issues or prosthetics and an upright aiming device to assist blind archers.

Dault’s band of archers has donated archery equipment to five additional wounded Soldiers since that momentous day in late January.  The gift of a bow set-up can mark a new beginning for many of these Veterans and Soldiers.  Although there will be therapeutic benefits knowing someone cares is the most important benefit. This is all due to an encounter born of misfortune and donations from caring communities’ worlds away from the chaos of the battlefield.

“I was never in the military but my dad was a U.S. Air Force pilot,” Dault said describing the importance of what their mission was becoming. “My first employee worked for me while he was in high school and in college joined the South Carolina National Guard. He was deployed a few times and is now a Major.”

Dault chuckles at the last statement and looks around at the mounted trophies and spoils of the hunt that hang around his internationally known shed-shop he deems a ‘one-horse-operation.’

He cannot help but fondly reminisce about the man that he says “types like he talks” and looks forward to seeing his friend when he again travels halfway around the world in March for the next archery-training clinic.

Warrior Games Army Track and Field Athletes Take the Road to the Qualification Clinics

SSG Krisell Creager-Lumpkins, Warrior Transition Unit (WTU), Fort Carson and SPC Jasmine Perry from Warrior Transition Battalion (WTB), Fort Campbell along with more than 70 other wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers and Veterans participated in the largest adaptive and reconditioning clinic hosted by the WTC at Fort Meade’s Mullins Field on March 8. Photo credit: retired LTC Sue Bozgoz

By LTC Jeanette Griffin, WTC Stratcom
On Thursday, March 8, unseasonably warm weather conditions accompanied the first day of competition for more than 45 wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers and Veterans that participated in the track and field portion of the Warrior Transition Command’s (WTC) largest adaptive sports and reconditioning clinic at Fort Meade’s Mullins Field.  Athletes practiced and competed in the 100 meter, 200 meter, and 1500 meter dash track events, shot put, and discus field events in preparation for qualification rounds planned on March 10-11.

 “The first track and field clinic focused on timing each individual, capturing their biomechanics, and analyzing their athletic capabilities,” said track and field coach retired LTC Sue Bozgoz. “I made note of each individual athlete’s God given talent, then provided them with information on how to improve their performance prior to the final clinic.”

Track runners demonstrated that they had practiced and improved their running times, since the first clinic. Likewise, shot put and discus athletes showed that they had improved their form, technique, and ability to throw the shot put and discus.

“Thursday’s practice for athletes competing in the 100 meter and 200 meter dash included an 800 meter warm up, 4×50 meter sprints with 100 meter rest, followed by an 800 meter cool down,” said Bozgoz.  “Athletes competing in the 1500 meter ran a one mile warm up, 800 meter blow out, and a one mile cool down.” This was just the right amount of training to prepare for the weekend of competition and qualifications.

Warrior Games returning athlete, SPC Jasmine Perry, a Soldier assigned to the Warrior Transition Unit at Fort Campbell, who won gold in the shot put event during the 2011 Warrior Games is very excited about competing in track and field and swimming.  “I believe that this year’s events are more competitive,” said Perry, “I hope to do my best and be selected to represent the Army during the 2012 Warrior Games.”

SPC Jasmine Perry from WTB Fort Campbell prepares to throw the shot put during a recent track and field competition. Perry won gold during the 2011 Warrior Games shot put field event and hopes to earn a spot on the Army’s 2012 Warrior Games team. Photo credit: LTC Jeanette Griffin, WTC Stratcom

“As a coach, my goal is to bring out a runner’s God given potential by giving them the tools they need to perform at their best,” said Bozgoz. “I am excited about the track and field qualifications. My greatest joy as a coach is helping runners reach the finish line.”  

At the Warrior Games, athletes from the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Special Operations will compete for the gold in archery, cycling, wheelchair basketball, shooting, swimming, track and field, and sitting volleyball.

“The planning and coordination for this event has gone well,” said SGT Brice Hamilton, of the Warrior Transition Command, Adaptive Sports and Reconditioning Branch.  “We were fortunate to have the assistance of the WTU, Fort Meade to assist with transportation of personnel and equipment and students from Defense Information School to assist as photographers, videographers, and timekeepers.”

After the competitions, athletes paused for a few moments to cool down, relax their nerves, and take a few minutes to reflect on the accomplishments made on the track and field.

The day ended with laughter, horse play, and all of the details on how the athletes received their scrapes and bruises. 

We had quite a day in the track and field competitions.

Wounded, Ill, and Injured Soldiers Compete for a Spot on Warrior Games Team


Wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers and Veterans arrive at Fort Meade to compete for spots on the Army’s 2012 Warrior Games team.

For the next five days, athletes will train in swimming, cycling, sitting volleyball, and track and field to prepare them for timed trials that will be used to select the Army’s team for the third annual Warrior Games.

Warrior Games draws wounded, ill, and injured athletes from the Army, Marines, Navy/Coast Guard, Air Force, and Special Operations to compete in archery, cycling, wheelchair basketball, shooting, swimming, track and field, and sitting volleyball.

SSG Krissell Kreager-Lumpkins has been in the Army 11 years and was injured falling off a Utah mountain during combat training operations.  She has been through several surgeries and will most likely undergo more as she recovers from injuries to her head, back, and neck.

At 27 years old, Kreager-Lumpkins is a first-time competitor for this year’s games; however, she was inspired to try out for the team while encouraging another Soldier during last year’s swimming event.  “Last year I didn’t know if I’d be able to walk,” Kreager-Lumpkins said, “I told my squad leader that I would be swimming in this year’s games.  I want to show others that there is life beyond injury”

LTC Keith Williams, WTC Adaptive Sports and Recondition Branch Chief, is responsible for arranging more than 10 clinics to prepare wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers and Veterans to represent the Army at the games.  As adaptive sports programs begin to grow at the 29 Warrior Transition Units- link to page (WTUs) throughout the Army, he has seen the positive impact these activities have on recovering Soldiers.

“There is no doubt that a Soldier engaged in a sport or other physical activity recovers more quickly,” said Williams. “The Warrior Games provides our wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers an opportunity to test themselves and regain both confidence and abilities that they may have thought were lost.”

The clinic will conclude with a final ceremony on Monday with WTC Commander BG Darryl Williams, congratulating clinic participants and recognizing finalists.

WTC plans to announce the 50 Soldiers and Veterans who will represent the Army on March 26. The games will take place beginning April 30 at the Olympic Training Center and Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Swimming for a Purpose

AW2 Veteran Michael Kacer pushes himself from the wall of the pool to start swimming the 50-meter backstroke. Kacer won silver in track and field during the 2010 Warrior Games and wants to compete in the 2012 Warrior Games in both swimming and track and field.

By SSG Emily Anderson, WTC Stratcom
All of the Soldiers and Veterans who attended the first Warrior Transition Command (WTC) swimming clinic at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (WRNMMC) in Bethesda, Maryland, on February 10-11 wore swim suits designed to help them move faster in the water.  For AW2 Veteran, Michael Kacer, his contact lenses were the accessory that enhanced  his swimming experience.

“I have like 14 different pairs of contacts,” said Kacer, who wore a light blue pair of contacts that matched the water in the WRNMMC pool. “I have a pair to match almost every outfit.”

Kacer deployed to Afghanistan in 2008 and sustained several injuries including a severed left arm, broken jaw, collapsed lungs, and three broken ribs from rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) missiles.  He was one of 60 Army Soldiers and Veterans competing for a spot on the Army’s team for the 2012 Warrior Games team that will take place in Colorado Springs, Colorado, April 30 – May 5.

“I participated in the Warrior Games two years ago and won the silver in the 200-meter dash,” Kacer said. “I wanted to get back into the competition and try different fields and see if I can bring home some medals, and help out the Army team as much as I can.”

Like Kacer, this is not the first year for many of the clinic’s participants to compete in the Warrior Games. SSG Stefanie Mason and MSG Rhoden Galloway, both gold medal winners in swimming for the Army during the 2011 Warrior Games, attended the clinics for additional training as they hope to attend this year’s games.

Soldiers and Veterans participated in the first WTC swimming clinic at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Bethesda, Maryland. Photo credit: SSG Emily Anderson

“I’m excited to compete in the games this year, if I am slected for the team.” Mason said. “It’s a wonderful program the military and the Olympic Committee put on. It helps the Wounded Warriors mentally and physically get better.”

However, there are a few new faces who have found this year’s games as  an opportunity to compete and  enjoy the camerderie during the swimming clinic.

“I had a broken neck, but now I’m off of profile and swimming has given me an opportunity to get back in shape,” said SPC Lacey Hamilton, who is currently recovering at the Fort Meade WTU. “I’m enjoying the camerderie during this clinic, because when you’re in a WTU, your focus is on healing and not necessarily on the camerderie.”

Retired SPC Robert Patterson of Phoenix, Arizona, who has a spinal cord injury from a motor vehicle accident in 1981, found out about the Warrior Games and contacted the WTC Adaptive Reconditioning Branch chief.

“I got pretty good at swimming and found out about Warrior Games, so I contacted LTC [Keith] Williams,” Patterson said. “I compete in triathlons and just wanted to try something different.”

“ I hope to compete in hand cycling events and the 50-meter and 100-meter freestyle events,” he added. “I’m a little nervous, but hoping for the best. I plan to keep trying no matter what.”

This year’s Army athletes will compete against each other during the clinics before being considered for a spot for the Army’s Warrior Games team. For some, these clinics gave them a chance to really get a feel for competing against each other.

“I was asked if I wanted to try for the Warrior Games. I said I would try, but I’m not a great swimmer,” said SFC Daniel Arnette, who had brain surgery after being diagnosed with a brain tumor. “Swimming was my therapy when I was injured. I was used to swimming, but I had never done it competively before

“This clinic really helped. The coach and staff really helped me with my technique,” Arnette added. “Even if I don’t make the team, I know what I have to work on and will try again next year.”

The final qualification swimming clinic for the 2012 Army Warrior Games swim team will be held Friday, March 9.

Warrior Games Army Track and Field Coach: “We will Dominate!”

SPC Christopher Weber, assigned to the Fort Drum Warrior Transition Unit, competes in the 100-meter men’s open with a strong finish during the first WTC track and field clinic at Fort Belvoir's Pullen Field.

By LTC Jeanette Griffin, WTC Stratcom
Recently, more than 40 wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers and Veterans traveled across the country to participate in the first WTC track and field  clinic in preparation for the 2012 Warrior Games.

During the three-day clinic held February 9-11  at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, and Walter Reed National Medical Center, Bethesda, Maryland, coaches gave the athletes a baseline on how to perform their best during track and field as they competed to become one of the 50 athletes representing the Army in the 2012 Warrior Games, April 30 – May 5, in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

“Track and field  athletes must have the best-timed performances for the track events,” said Warrior Games Army track and field coach, retired LTC Sue Bozgoz. “Athletes competing in track must have the capacity factor [X-factor], meaning we want the runners who possess sufficient speed and endurance.”

“Athletes should be able to start, run the bends, straights, and pass the baton well,” she added. “They also need to possess a high degree of competitiveness.”

On the first day, competing athletes gathered at Fort Belvoir’s Pullen Field for a few administrative details, then divided into two groups. The first group assembled for the 100-meter, 200-meter, and 1500-meter dash events while the second group met on the field and demonstrated their ability to throw the shot put and discus.

Along with Bozgoz, members from her International Running Team, I Run for God (IR4G), an AW2 Community Support Networkorganization that helps AW2 Soldiers and Veterans in adaptive sports and recreational services, were at the clinic to help assess the athletes’ current levels of fitness, provide additional one-on-one training, and to pace and time the runners.

Eighteen wounded, ill, and injured, Soldiers and Veterans participated in the track portion of WTC’s first track and field clinic at Fort Belvoir's Pullen Field and Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Bethesda, Maryland.

“The coaches are great,” said

SPC Christopher Weber, a Soldier assigned to the Fort Drum Warrior Transition Unit, who sustained injuries to his back and left elbow during a dismounted patrol in Afghanistan. “They have given some great advice on how to train for track and field.”

Although the training, excitement, and camaraderie of the athletes seemed to overshadow the chilly temperature of 33°F, some Soldiers and Veterans were no strangers to training in cold weather.

“I have always enjoyed running and competed in track during high school,” said Weber who deals with the average Fort Drum daily high temperature below 37°F, he did not have difficulty competing at Fort Belvoir on a cold, sunny, and breezy day. “I want to win gold for the Army, so I plan to train five days a week, running short distances, and focus on running activities that increase my speed and endurance.”

“This clinic was inspiring. Everyone worked together as a team,” said Weber, who hopes to also be selected for the Army’s swimming team. “This was a great way to compete and meet new people.”

At Warrior Games, athletes from the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Special Operations will compete for the gold in archery, cycling, wheelchair basketball, shooting, swimming, track and field, and sitting volleyball.

However, to qualify for the Warrior Games Army field team, athletes must throw either the shot put or discus the farthest distance.

“We have some phenomenal talent on the field team,” said retired CPT Millie Daniels, coach for the field events. “It will be really tough to narrow the team down to the top athletes for discus and shot put.”

In addition to track and field training events, athletes learned how to train the body for optimal performance by focusing on nutrition, physical fitness planning, mental toughness, spiritual, family, socialization, and teamwork.

“Are we going to win the most medals in track and field?” Bozgoz asked. “If we strategically place the right athletes in the right events, we will not only win the most medals, we will dominate!”

Page 2 of 3«123»

Write a blog for WTC

Warriors in Transition can submit a blog by e-mailing WarriorCareCommunications [at]